Watching A Loved One Die
What Can You Do?
There is nothing harder in this life than watching a family member or loved one fade into death. This subject is sad for sure. I have watched my Father fade and pass from Parkinson’s and am now watching my Mother fade and pass from so many ailments. There is no trick to make this a happy story, no clue for being able to watch without pain. I do, however, speak from experience when I say all you can do is try to make both theirs and your lives easier as time goes. If they are coherent, the choice to accept your help is theirs.
If your loved one is far away from you, in another family member’s home or in a hospice, it is so important to see them and have them see or hear you as often as possible. My Mother is in a wonderful hospice that is a three hour drive from me and with me having an 11 year old daughter and a full time job, making that drive constantly is simply not possible. We try and get up every other weekend, but in the times in between, there are other ways.
Skype is an alternative that not so long ago, wasn’t there. This also requires that there be a computer or phone with Skyping abilities and a camera available, not to mention someone who can be there to push the buttons and make it happen if your loved one is not able. I have been able to Skype with Mom quite often and it has been a Godsend. My daughter has acted out simple plays and read fun stories she has written for Mom via Skype. Seeing the smile on Mom’s face when she watches is priceless. Hearing her laughter is fantastic.
If you can get a speakerphone that is loud enough, phone calls can be an amazing connection. I know it seems obvious, but for the disabled and elderly sometimes phone calls are not as easy as for the rest of us. When Moms hearing and cognitive senses started going downhill rapidly, I looked into a phone with a LOUD speaker and pictures instead of numbers. Serene Innovations has a great phone that all she has to do to call is press on my picture! Clarity and ClearSounds also have some great deals.
Mom loves watching videos. She enjoys musicals and fun shows. So we make them for her! We do videos with sing alongs for her to sing her favorite songs and watch us be silly at the same time. My daughter has come up with her own entertaining videos specifically targeted to hear Grandma's laughter. My sister then videos Mom watching and it is great to see her smile and laugh at the antics!
Science Teacher In His Element
Sometimes, no matter what you do, your loved one is consumed with bitterness at their predicament. My Dad, Bless his soul, was one of these. Parkinson’s took his abilities and some of his mind away from him. Being a scientist/science teacher, this was one of the worst things that could have happened to him. When we moved him and Mom out here for their own safety as they couldn’t live alone anymore, for a while Dad was okay with it. When his body started to fail him and he could basically do nothing except sit in a chair and look out the window without pain, his mind turned to bitterness and stayed there. I bought him a modified Ipad and it helped for a while for him to be able to watch streaming video of wildlife, etc. When he could no longer touch the screen to work it, we turned to videos. He watched so many videos of wildlife that he enjoyed. It was nice to see the rare smile once in a while. Soon that too went by the wayside. Finally he took a short walk to the bathroom, fell and broke his hip. He went to the hospital and died from asphyxiation. He knew he was going. Mom was visiting him and when the nurses told her it was time to leave he said no. He told the nurses she had to stay with him an extra hour that day. They spent that hour holding hands and talking. When she left, he told the nurses he was having extreme pain in his lower chest. He died while being taken to xray.
My best friend, when hearing of Dad’s death, spoke words that summed it up completely. “Wow, your Dad sure lived and died on his own terms!” Exactly. As hard as it was to watch him get worse with each passing day. As heart wrenching as it was to hear him complain almost every moment of not having any kind of life those last few years, after his death I had to accept that we did all we could for him. My sister feels unending guilt that his last few years were so horrible to him. I feel guilt, but I am allowing it to be replaced with the knowing that he spent his last hour with Mom and Love. His terms. He made the choice of his last few years being filled with complaining and bitterness. It can’t have been easy for him in any way, but he could have been laughing some of that time. His pain was being managed with intense pain drugs. Having taken some of those myself a few times, I know he was in minimal pain and could have made the choice to enjoy the Love his family showed him. We did all we could. We gave him Love and Compassion. We shared stories, videos, danced and sang for him as we are doing for Mom. Mom chooses to laugh and smile and giggle and enjoy through what pain she has. Those are her terms.
Watching a loved one fade is heartbreaking. How you decide to get past the grief, helplessness and guilt is up to you. Here are some of the things that helped me (and are still).
Meditation: Connecting to the vastness of the Universe in all her glory is immensly helpful. We are all connected and we all live and we all die. During meditation, guide your soul and mind to acknowledge the beyond. I will be doing my next hub on meditation as a tool for grieving.
Prayer: No matter your religion or to which deity you pray, do it. Simply asking for help, speaking of your pain and praying for guidance does help.
Groups: Join groups of people that are going through the same thing, be it for a certain disease or for those with loved ones in hospice in general. Having someone to talk to that is there or has been there can relieve some of the pain and you will make good friends along the way.
- Bereavement Support Groups | Online Grief Support, Help for Coping with Loss | Beyond Indigo Forums
Online grief support groups, bereavement forum for coping with loss & death of a loved one, help with grieving at Beyond Indigo Forums: www.grieving.com.
Physical and Mental Exertion: I know, sounds silly right? It's not I promise you. I work out to a video that has difficult dance or step moves. The adrenaline along with the brain power and coordination required for this will leave no room for guilt and helplessness.
Back To Nature: When Dad was diagnosed, when Mom hits another low, I take my dog and I walk up a mountain. There I take in the glory that is Nature. I breathe clean air (sort of), I watch a hawk circle, I commune with the essence that is Earth and I play with my dog. If I feel the need, I sit under a tree and cry. My dog puts his head on my lap and sends me love. It helps.
In closing, these experiences have been life altering. Watching a loved one fade is never pleasant. Acceptance is hard and at times nearly impossible. Finding peace in the knowing that you have done and are doing all that you are able to do for them along the way is an absolute necessity to your own sanity. Blessings.